Mayor Jack Froese, along with Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, were the targets of a court case seeking to remove them from office. (Langley Advance Times files)

Mayor Jack Froese, along with Councillors Bob Long and Blair Whitmarsh, were the targets of a court case seeking to remove them from office. (Langley Advance Times files)

Mayor, councillors win court decision and stay in office in Langley

A judge dismissed a petition trying to remove three sitting council members

Langley Township’s mayor and two councillors targeted for removal from office by a court petition will keep their council seats, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Friday.

Justice Paul Walker dismissed a petition brought by group of 10 local voters to remove Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Bob Long, and Blair Whitmarsh from office due to alleged conflict of interest. Former Coun. Angie Quaale, who lost in the 2018 election, was also a target of the petition.

“The petitioners have failed to establish that any of the respondents [Froese, Long, Whitmarsh, and Quaale] had a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the impugned matters before them as members of the Township council,” Walker wrote in his decision. “On this basis, the petition must be dismissed.”

Walker also wrote that he accepted the “unchallenged evidence” that the mayor and councillors were acting in good faith and the best interests of the Township when debating and voting.

The case centered on conflicts of interest allegedly created by campaign donations to the council members from employees of development firms during the 2018 campaign.

Under the Community Charter, any group of 10 electors can petition to disqualify a council member due to a conflict of interest.

The timing of votes on specific development projects related to the campaign donors was at issue, argued Mark Underhill, the lawyer for the 10 voters.

In December, he argued that there was no need to demonstrate that the council members or mayor were “on the take” or directly agreed to vote a certain way in exchange for a donation, Underhill said.

“What I want to show you is in fact this legislation, the common law, going back over a century, is all about insuring the integrity of local government… and that the electorate can have the confidence that they have, in the words of the case law, ‘the undivided loyalty of their elected officials,’” Underhill said.

Meanwhile, lawyers J.W. Locke, representing the mayor and councillors, and James Goulden, representing the Township, argued that there had to be link beyond simply receiving a campaign contribution.

“There is nothing unlawful about giving campaign contributions, that’s well established,” Goulden said.

A promise, implicit or otherwise, to vote in a certain way was required in this case, Locke argued.

“I know it may be difficult, but some evidence from somebody who says these votes were tied to these contributions,” he said was required, not just the timing issue. “It’s inferential at best and speculative at worst.”

READ MORE: Judge hears development case that could end in mayor, councillors booted off council

READ MORE: No smoke, no fire, defense says in conflict case that could kick three off Langley Township council

The defense emphasized that there was no traditional financial link between the developers and any of the council members. None of them worked for the developers or had family members working for them.

Walker’s decision said there is a multi-step process in decisions of this sort.

First, the court has to determine if an elected official has a direct or indirect financial interest in a matter they are voting on. There may be some exceptions to the rule in legislation, or the interest may be so remote and minor that it’s considered inconsequential, Walker wrote.

Only after a direct interest in the matter has been established can the courts consider remedies – including possibly removing elected officials from office, Walker wrote.

The electors’ case didn’t even clear the first hurdle, the judge wrote.

He found a lack of a link between the campaign donations and the votes.

“They [the petitioners] acknowledge that they have no evidence to prove that the contributions, which they assert are sizable for municipal elections, in fact influenced the votes cast by each respondent,” Walker wrote.

“Ultimately, the case must be founded on evidence, not speculation,” Walker wrote later in his decision.

CourtLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford football star Chase Claypool has signed an endorsement deal with Nike’s Jordan brand. (Air Jordan website)
Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool signs with Nike’s Jordan brand

Abbotsford Senior Secondary School grad joins exclusive group of top athletes wearing Jumpman

Two people were in a vehicle that rolled over on Highway No. 1 near Lickman Road. They are now out of the vehicle. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vehicle rolls over on Highway 1 near Lickman Road in Chilliwack

Two people in SUV at time of collision in westbound lanes

The Oxford Senior Care private care home in Abbotsford is part of a COVID-19 contact-tracing pilot project through the company Vantage. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford care home participates in COVID-19 contact-tracing pilot project

The Oxford Senior Care uses ‘wearables’ to track movements of staff and residents

The Abbotsford board of education said on Tuesday they are satisfied with how students and staff dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic from September to December.
Abbotsford board of education pleased with return to class during COVID-19

District officials thank staff and students for low number of infections and issues during pandemic

The Abbotsford News is looking forward to hearing the stories of some of Abbotsford’s unsung education heroes. (Getty Image)
Who are your Abbotsford education heroes?

We’re looking for stories of people who have gone above and beyond for students

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

The Delta Hospice Society operates the Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care (pictured) and the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. (The Canadian Press photo)
Fraser Health to evict Delta Hospice Society, open new hospice beds next door

Health authority will serve DHS 30 days’ notice when service agreement expires Feb. 25

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read